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The Talent Wave

The Talent Wave

“It has never been as good for people in the corporate sector as it has been now”. Demands ranging from “double my compensation, offer my spouse employment, provide me flexi time, I need to fly to Singapore once every fortnight to see my children studying in a boarding school, to I need to bring along three of my colleagues as team members” are but a select few of the promises being made to bring talent into organizations. That talent wave is here to stay is no doubt but is the solution to this problem promising what is not sustainable is not the answer. In fact research is beginning to indicate that time has now come to call the talent shortage bluff. Any examination of organizational retention needs to transcend an examination of “why people leave”.

“People don’t leave companies, they leave managers.” Is an oft-repeated phrase in retention strategy conversation? “And the problem is not about getting talent – Employees who resign from one company join another”. If that is true, then why don’t organizations invest in learning processes and development programs that enable their leaders to keep their talent? Doesn’t it make sense that better managers will yield better employee retention?

In a KPMG focus group research, over 80% of respondents indicated difficulty in retaining talent rather than constraints in attracting talent; about 25% of the participants indicated they have strategies in place to deal with skill shortages, as and when they arise; but over 90% of the organizations were at a loss to identify concrete issues within their organizations that hindered employee retention. Common place issues were all available, like difficulties with the immediate manager, lack of enriched job, not so competitive compensation, absence of developmental opportunities and poor systems for learning.

Substantively speaking, what we are facing today is a multi-dimensional talent problem that in turn requires a multi-pronged approach to address. And at the heart of this challenge is a large bulge of people on the verge who transit from one company to another primarily on account of an inability to cope with business, job and growth challenges. There is a critical mass of incompetent people who do not know how to contribute and sustain growth in an economy that is growing despite people and their direct contribution. It is all about managing employees who lack capabilities to deliver, staff who have not been trained to follow processes, leaders who cannot lead and technocrats who are unable to resolve issues. An organization that is lumped with an employee mass that consists of volume rather than value is facing a combination of attraction & retention issues and not always is the issue resolved in fixing an internal problem to help employees stay for longer periods. And the solution lies in deploying talent structures that are tight and robust with planned tight headcounts based on employee typology, qualified competence rather than hiring in loads that are pulling down an overall performance.

There are 4 generations of employee typology working side-by-side in today’s workforce: people born in the 2nd world war years, baby boomers, generation Xers and generation Ys. With varying attitudes and expectations about lives, jobs, longevity, employers and careers Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. Generation Xers were born between 1965 and 1980, and Generation Yers were born after 1980.

Significant changes have been noticed amongst the generational divide and tend to have real implications for how employers and employees work together. For example, Baby boomers put a heavy focus on work as an anchor in their lives. Managing lives around work is central to the way they have lived. Baby boomers worked on the notion of learning based contribution, occurrence based delivery and task based performance. They demonstrated a high degree of consistency in performing high quality repetitive tasks that required concentration, focus and single mindedness to closure or achievement. Baby boomers who have reached leadership positions are likely to lead mature organizations in business or functional roles with very little difficulty. They possess an intrinsic capability to handle complex brick and mortar economy companies with ease. Retaining this generation does not rest with the organization. The high degrees of self-motivation in this band of employees who have seen many economic down turns have a built in resilience to bounce back and manage their careers.

Generation Xers enjoy work but are more concerned about navigating the work/life balance. They are the first generation to grow up with computers and the Internet as part of their lives. Constant familiarity in the networked world has had a profound impact on their approach to problem solving and collaboration. They follow a close pattern with the Baby Boomers in working on knowledge-based activities that require depth, quality and consistency. This group values individual & collective time, at times quite mutually exclusive. From a retention perspective this group seeks identity with an organizational learning program and recognition systems that identifies and differentiates the know how folks from know less masses. CEO’s from this generation have acquired the capability to manage a combination of enterprises that straddle both the old and the new economy quite adeptly.

Generation Yers often have varying concerns: because of their deep know how with technology, they believe they can work flexibly anytime, anyplace, and that they should be evaluated on work product, not on how, when, or where they got it done. The real revolution is a decrease in career ambition in favor of more family time, less travel and less personal pressure. However this group consists of a large mass that lack consistency in their outlook towards work life. While their expectations from employer’s match with generic trends their work ethic to support such an expectation falls way behind. For example, this generation would sail through college without studying for a single day, or would not think twice if there were a commercial opportunity that could mean a compromise of values and ethics. They have distaste for what they perceive as menial work. They may just avoid “difficult people” instead of engaging with them constructively. On balance this generation seeks more from minimal effort given their knowledge of technological processes but find it difficult to work hard or seek advanced knowledge or work-based skills to advance their careers or employability. Maximization of returns based on their current usage of knowledge is their competitive spirit for the present. And employees with these traits present a management challenge. Retention of this segment is a tough one. And it does not start with retention. It starts with attracting only the right kind to hire for leadership roles and the masses for short-term contribution. Planning to retain large masses of Gen Yers without a planned process to develop their capabilities would lead to substantive grief.

A talent mindset is the deep-seated belief that having better talent at all levels is how you out perform your competitors. It is gained by identifying talent who fit in effectively with an organizational knowledge needs built around a capability profile that sustains its competitiveness and is definitely not driven by hiring a critical mass to meet with a quarter to quarter wall street analysts thirst for valuation information. The current organizational environment is changing as companies increasingly focus on human capital as a competitive advantage. To achieve business success, companies are defining objectives and expecting their employees to perform at higher levels, demonstrate competencies, build efficiencies and productivity, to be customer-responsive, process-oriented, effective supply chains, world class technologies, focus on growth and market shares, involved in shared leadership and responsible for creating the knowledge that adds value to an organization's distinguishing capabilities thereby increasing the shareholders’ value. These organizations, meanwhile, are also becoming leaner, competency focused, performance and outcome driven as they align themselves as one integrated business to achieve their business strategy and maintain core values, and are constantly looking for competent talent.

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